An orange blossom is the flagrant flower of an orange tree. I’ve never seen one of these before. Orange trees aren’t native to New England and I’ve never been any place where I have seen an actual orange tree in bloom. We have an apple tree in our yard that blossoms every spring and I assume its flower is kind of the same. (Did I just compare apples to oranges?) They, the apple blossoms, are very pretty. I imagine orange blossoms are too, but I bet they smell even better. I bet they have a hint of citrus to their fragrance. It would be like smelling nature’s own Citrus Magic® in your backyard. My only concern for today was how to make a celebration with them especially when there were no orange blossoms in sight.
Here’s an interesting point of trivia about the orange blossom: it’s the state flower of Florida. Similarly (or not), the state fish of Florida is the Atlantic sailfish. That has no relevance here, I just wanted to give you a fun fact. While we’re talking fun facts, someone just told me the other day that the official state fish of Hawaii is the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa. That’s an even less relevant morsel of information as it relates to an orange blossom, but it was just something too interesting not to share. Someday you will get that question on Final Jeopardy and you’ll be glad you read this. Maybe when you are on Jeopardy there will be a category about Orange Blossoms too, probably named something silly like “Orange is the New Blossom”. If so, then you should know that the essence of Orange blossom is an important component in the making of perfume. That’s where the flowers are heated and the fragrant compounds are re-collected through condensation of the distilled vapor creating said perfume. For 600 points, you should know that orange blossoms are edible and they are often used in baked goods or desserts in French and Middle Eastern cuisine. For 800 points, you should be aware that the leaves of an orange blossom are used to make fragrant waters and teas. And to run the category, you should appreciate the fact that the orange blossom is considered by many to be an aphrodisiac and it has long been recognized as a symbol of good luck. That’s why they are often found in wedding bouquets (to promote the luck, not the lust). Congratulations, you just won on Jeopardy.
I was still puzzled about how to celebrate today. I suppose I could have made busted out my home chemistry set and attempted to make my own perfume to honor the fragrant properties of the orange blossom, but that was a bit too ambitious for me. No, for my personal scent, I’ll stick to Drakkar Noir. Then I thought maybe I could bake something, but I still had the problem of finding an actual orange blossom to use in my cooking (or fragrant water for that matter). That’s when my Google efforts enlightened me to the fact that the orange blossom is also a drink. I had never heard of this drink, but it seemed like it was not all that uncommon. Best of all, it was not made with orange blossoms themselves. Just orange juice, gin and some orange liqueur. That’s right, today was the day to sip on some gin and juice.
I had to go to the package store to pick up some gin. With our recent penchant for Gin Lime RIckeys, our supply had run out. I actually hate buying bottles of booze because we have so much random liquor in our liquor cabinet that it seems like I’m creating more clutter. However, gin is one of the staples for any stocked bar so if we were out, we needed some. I stopped on the way home at a place in Tiverton. I’m not sure why I stopped there, just wanted to go to someplace new. I walked in and made a beeline to the gin aisle where I hemmed and hawed for five minutes over the selection. I usually go Tanqueray but there were a ton of other options available and I wanted to branch out. I ended up picking up some Boodles which looked good, I had heard good things about and I liked the name. (That’s the same criteria I used when I started dating Lola.) On my way to the counter to pay I passed by a display that had Zima for sale. That stopped me in my tracks. Zima? What year was this? Was this possible? Apparently, they have rereleased the clear malt beverage because the nineties called and they wanted their beverage back. I couldn’t pass it up so I picked up a six-pack. Now I can never go back to that liquor store.
When I got home, Lola was out and visiting a friend so I decided to have an after-work cocktail by myself. The orange blossom is a pretty simple recipe: 3 parts gin, 1 part orange liqueur and 3 parts orange juice. I made it in a cocktail shaker, shook well and then strained it into a chilled martini glass with a sugared rim. For the orange juice, I picked up some Natalie’s OJ which is a Florida based company that sells fresh juices. They probably see lots of orange blossoms in their orange groves. Their products are always nice and fresh so I knew I was getting fresh. real orange flavor in my drink.
I think I put in too much orange juice because the orange taste kind of dominated. I suppose that was appropriate for orange blossom day, but it kind of took away from the overall cocktail. The gin was there in the background, but it was an afterthought. I used Triple Sec as my orange liqueur and it would probably have been better with something more bold like Cointreau or Grand Marnier. The cocktail just didn’t come together like it should have. It was refreshing in the way that orange juice is refreshing, but it wasn’t complete. It reminded me of when we would mix gin with orange juice in college because we needed to mix it with something and didn’t really want to taste the gin. I like gin but with apologies to the D-O-Double G, I really don’t think it goes great with orange juice. Still, I enjoyed a nice orange blossom cocktail on National Orange Blossom Day, so that’s a win.
Then I got to follow it up with a Zima. A Zima in 2017 – who would ever think it? It still looks cool. The clear bottle with grooved lines holding a clear liquid inside. The bold blue label. The distinctive font. I cracked it open and took a sip. It was just like I remembered. A bit sweet. A little carbonated. A hint of booze in the background. Not a very distinct flavor. Hints of lemon-lime, but just a hint. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was just … Zima. I remembered why it never stuck around. You could never drink more than one. It was filling and sweet which didn’t lend itself to making it your cocktail of choice for a night out. It was gimmicky which is oddly the same reason why I bought it today. But I had to try it.
When life gives you orange blossoms, you make orange blossom drinks. That’s ridiculous advice because life just doesn’t just throw orange blossoms at you especially when you live in New England. But when life gave me the concept of orange blossoms today, I decided to learn a few things. I learned about how this flower is used in baking and perfume making. I learned about new state flowers and fish. I learned about teas and fragrant waters. And I learned how to make a new drink. Orange blossoms even steered me to revisiting an old friend (Zima) and how to take a nice break from the routine of every day (zomething different). That’s making the most out of a flower you have never ever seen. Hopefully it will bestow good luck upon me too as it has been known to do. This is one powerful flower and I felt lucky to be celebrating it today. But don’t tell Snoop.
Next up: National Tapioca Day